Rutherford County agencies facing dispatcher shortage


Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 10:10 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - When you call 911, is there going to be anyone there to pick up on the other line?

While many wouldn’t consider anyone not answering 911 call an option, agencies across Rutherford County have been facing serious staffing shortages and will be raising pay to make sure that no call goes unanswered.

In other parts of the country, some agencies have had to answer calls based on priority because they don’t have the staffing to answer the phone. Agencies in Rutherford County said that they are trying to keep that from happening there.

Agencies in Rutherford County have a shortage of dispatchers. The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office has been trying to fill eight positions.

Cassie Lowery, the director for Rutherford County Emergency Communications, said it all started with COVID. Lowery said the private sector offered better pay and work-from-home options. The understaffing, Lowery said, has been wearing on the dispatchers they do have.

“The problem is, we are trying to staff 24-7, 365,” Lowery said. “If you want to try to cover people that call in sick or take a vacation, we can’t approve vacation.”

Lowery added that several agencies within the county have been increasing pay to make sure there is someone to answer the phone.

RCSO dispatchers used to have a starting pay of around $35,000 but recently they announced Wednesday that they would raise it by 20%. Now someone with no experience will be able to start at $43,800.

“He posted on Facebook about the rate increase and saw applications come in today,” Lowery said.

Lowery said they do have fail-safes enacted so calls can roll over to a backup center if there is no one to pick up but said that would be a last resort.

“The citizens are unaware of the issue and not impacted by it when they do a call for service,” Lowery said. “We are trying to make sure that does not become an issue.”

Lowery said that municipalities in Rutherford County addressing pay increases are Smyrna Lavergne, Murfreesboro and others. However, she stressed that this was an issue among counties and municipalities nationwide.

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